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What is the Sin of Envy?

downloadQuestion 268

What is the distinction between envy, which I know to be a sin, and just admiring, acknowledging, or wishing you had something? I go to church alone. When I look around and see couples standing side by side or holding hands during Mass, I am moved to see such beautiful devotion and love. I am happy for them; but it makes me wish that I had someone standing beside me that I could love (and who would love me). There are also wonderful qualities in people that I admire. I often wish I could be more like them and have what they have. There is a cottage I love that is by the ocean where I vacation in the summer. I love that spot and have often fantasized about living there.

I am not sure if these are examples of envy. I do not think it is sinful to admire people’s talents, beauty, gifts, relationships, or possessions.  Am I wrong?  When does admiring become envy or are both sinful? How does one know when he or she has crossed the line into sin?

Response

Envy means feeling injured or getting upset at the good fortune of others. It is not merely wanting what another has but also resenting that they have something we do not. It is a chief source of unhappiness and division in a world obsessed with possessions, privilege and power. It is always a sin because it desires the misfortune of others. Malicious envy corrupts the minds and hearts that by grace should be likened to Christ’s. It is at the root of the second sin committed by mankind, the murder of Abel by his brother Cain.

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